ABCMR Memorandum of
APPLICANT REQUESTS: That he be allowed to graduate from the US Army
Command and General Staff College (CGSC); that the general officer letter of
reprimand (GOLOR) that was placed in his Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) be
expunged; that the Academic Evaluation Report (AER) for the period 940625-950602
be corrected to reflect that he achieved course standards, that his leadership was
satisfactory, that he demonstrated potential for higher schooling, and that any mention
of a CGSC Misconduct Board be deleted; and, finally, that the personnel flag imposed
against him on 5 February 1996 be removed.
APPLICANT STATES: That as a CGSC student, he was accused of plagiarism on a
take-home examination after his examination was compared with, and found similar to,
a second student’s examination; that he did not plagiarize the second student’s work as
he completed his examination more than 2 weeks before the second student was even
issued the same examination; that there is no justification for the CGSC Misconduct
Board’s determination that “. . . there was sufficient evidence that outside, i.e., not
original thought, occurred in the preparation of the answers.”; and, finally, that he was
singled out for retribution because he is black, a member of a black collegiate fraternity,
and had been given a key role in a CGSC exercise.
COUNSEL CONTENDS: In a memorandum to the Commander, Total Army Personnel
Command, Subject: Rebuttal Recommendation for Involuntary Release from Active
Duty and Request for Separation Board, that, in effect, the CGSC Misconduct Board
had no evidentiary basis to conclude that the applicant had “cheated” on his
examination and that the Board improperly shifted the burden of proof to the applicant
to prove that he was innocent.
EVIDENCE OF RECORD: The applicant's military records show:
He was born on 26 January 1959 and was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the
Regular Army on 19 December 1981 following completion of the Reserve Officer
Training Corps (ROTC) program at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.
Upon completion of the Infantry Officer Basic Course and Officer Rotary Wing Aviator
Course, he was assigned to an aviation unit, with duty as an aviation team leader.
The applicant remained on continuous active duty and rose to the rank of major on 1
December 1993. Although he completed CGSC by correspondence on 15 November
1994, he was selected to attend the CGSC Resident Course at Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas, for the academic year 1995 (940801-950602). He reported to Fort
Leavenworth on/about 25 June 1994.
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On 13 January 1995, the members of the applicant’s staff group were issued a
take-home exam for Course C530, Theater Operations, with instructions that it be
completed by “100 percent individual effort”; no collaboration was allowed. The subject
of the examination was “Operation Torch,” the Allied invasion of North Africa during
World War II. The completed exam was due on 24 January 1995.
On 10 February 1995, a second staff group was issued the same C530 exam with a
due date of 21 February 1995. One of the members of this staff group was a Black
officer who had worked with the applicant at HQDA and who was a member of the
applicant’s college fraternal organization. Because of similarities between the answers
on three exams in this staff group, collusion was suspected and an Article 15-6
investigation was conducted to determine the extent of the collusion, if any. All C530
exams were reviewed.
Following the investigation, the applicant’s exam and that of his friend in the second
staff group were found to be identical in many respects. For example, question
number 4 read, “An understanding of the concept of culmination is critical to success in
operational warfare. What do the planners see as possible Allied culminating points?
What is (are) implied as the enemy culminating point(s)? How effectively does the
plan address this concept in relation to preventing Allied culmination and inducing the
enemy to culminate?” The following identical answers (except where parenthetically
indicated) were found on each exam.
ALLIED CULMINATING POINTS:
a. Force Buildup - the ability for the Allied Forces to buildup in order to
secure Tunisia and defeat the German (Germans) could result in
culminating if the forces were not established quickly enough.
b. Rapidly resupply and movement of equipment and supplies to support
the Allied Forces - logistics operations were critical for the Allied because of
the heavy armored force maintenance and sustainment. Pushing supplies
and equipment maintenance requirements to the forces helped maintain
the Allied Forces momentum. The Allied Forces attack could have
culminated if the supplies and maintenance were stopped.
ENEMY IMPLIED CULMINATING POINTS
a. The enemy’s most critical culminating point were the Axis LOCs.
Control of his LOCs and disrupting his resupply to the Axis would cause his
forces to culminate.
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The Allied Plan did not effectively address this concept in relation to
preventing Allied culmination and inducing the enemy to culminate. But
the culminating points were address to some degree in the Allied operation.
The Allied Force did not allocate additional forces to this area of the
All other questions reflected identical, or near identical answers, including misspellings
and syntax errors. Even the structure of the responses was nearly identical.
As a result of the review of the C530 exam, the applicant, his acquaintance, and two
other Black officers were brought before a CGSC Misconduct Board, with the applicant
and his acquaintance being reviewed by the same board. The original allegation
necessitating the Misconduct Board was a violation of plagiarism rules. Following the
board hearing, the board members reached the conclusion that plagiarism did occur,
but that it could not be determined who copied from whom. This decision was reached
because the board members felt that the numerous occurrences of exact, or near
exact, duplication of answers provided sufficient evidence that “outside, i.e., not original
thought, occurred” in the preparation of the answers. The CGSC Misconduct Board
recommended that both officers be dismissed from CGSC with no opportunity to
graduate. As a note, the other two Black officers who faced a similar board were also
recommended for dismissal from the course.
The Acting Deputy Commandant of CGSC notified the applicant in writing that the
CGSC Misconduct Board had found him guilty of violating CGSC academic standards
and had recommended his dismissal. He further stated that, although not specifically
recommended by the Misconduct Board, he intended to issue a letter of reprimand for
inclusion in the applicant’s OMPF. The letter of reprimand, which was attached for
comment and/or rebuttal, stated that the applicant had, against specific instructions,
collaborated on the C530 exam, thereby having cheated.
The applicant submitted a rebuttal to the Acting Deputy Commandant which was
considered and rejected. The proposed letter of reprimand and the rebuttal thereto
were forwarded to the Commanding General (CG), US Army Combined Arms Center
and Fort Leavenworth for his review and final action. The CG met with the applicant
on 23 June 1995 and also considered a second written rebuttal, dated 1 July 1995.
After hearing from the applicant and considering all written documentation, the CG
determined not to issue the Acting Deputy Commandant’s letter of reprimand, but to
impose his own letter of reprimand instead. In so informing the applicant, the CG
summarized that the applicant could not explain the striking similarities between his and
his fellow student’s exams until offering, at the very last opportunity, that perhaps “. . .
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[the fellow officer] may have stolen his [applicant’s] answers by one of four means:
going through his trash at his home in Leavenworth; copying his examination answers
from his notebook; copying his file from his laptop computer; and, somehow stealing the
examination booklet after it was turned in.” The CG pointed out that, before the Acting
Deputy Commandant, the applicant was specifically asked if there was any way
someone could have gained access to his laptop computer, and he was adamant that
no one could have done so. The CG postulated that, if someone had stolen the
applicant’s answers from his trash, notebook, or after turn-in, it would not account for
the “. . . identical mistakes in spelling, grammar, and usage [as would occur when
someone had access to a computer file].” He, therefore, found the applicant’s last
gasp attempt at an explanation to be incredible.
The CG, in a letter of reprimand dated 23 June 1995, informed the applicant that a
CGSC Misconduct Board found that he had cheated on a take home exam; that his and
his fellow student’s answers were substantially the same, to include identical spelling
and syntax errors; and that during all opportunities to do so, he failed to explain these
similarities as anything other than “coincidence.” He indicated that he was withdrawing
the Acting Deputy Commandant’s proposed letter of reprimand because the applicant’s
rebuttal of that letter focused upon the narrow definition of plagiarism and never
adequately addressed the key issue of two substantially identical exams. The CG
specifically stated that the applicant was being reprimanded for “cheating” and added “It
is clear from the evidence that you either supplied [the other officer] with your answers
or you both copied from the same source. . . . Regardless of which occurred, your
actions constitute cheating [emphasis added].”
The letter of reprimand was filed in the applicant’s OMPF; he was dismissed from
CGSC and given an adverse AER. He was then transferred to Korea, arriving
on/about 13 July 1995. While in Korea, he was notified by the Commander, Total
Army Personnel Command (PERSCOM) that he was being recommended for
involuntary release from active duty because of the GOLOR filed in his OMPF. On 21
October 1996, a board of officers met to determine whether the applicant should be
retained in the Army. This Show Cause Board recommended that he be retained;
determined that he did not fail a course at a service school for academic reasons; and
that, because the CGSC Misconduct Board had failed to prove plagiarism, he did not
engage in conduct unbecoming an officer, nor did he commit acts of personal
However, the board of officers made additional findings and recommendations. In a
memorandum to the CG, Eighth US Army, dated 9 January 1997, the Show Cause
Board found that the C530 exam on which the applicant was accused of cheating, and
which the CGSC felt had been compromised, had been given the following year. They
added that it was incomprehensible why a suspected compromised test was
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administered a second time. The board also determined that the applicant’s answers
were substantially similar to those of his fellow student, but that the applicant completed
and submitted his test first. They added that the CGSC Misconduct Board had failed
to show how the applicant had cheated. Finally, the board of officers turned its
attention to a piece of evidence presented by the applicant during his show cause
hearing. This piece of evidence--a written summary of a chapter of the text, Lifeblood
of War, purportedly completed by the applicant in November 1994 and used as the
basis for his C530 exam answers--was determined to be “highly suspect.” The board
stated that “[the applicant] conveniently demonstrated . . . that the bulk of his answers
on the C530 exam came from the summary. . . . [that the applicant] did not provided
[sic] this summary to any authority until he included it in his appeal to his Show Cause
notice to PERSCOM. Adding to the suspect nature of this summary is how amazingly
prescient [the applicant] was in November 1994. The summary tracks precisely the
answers to the first four questions on C530. Almost eighty percent of [the applicant’s]
examination answers for the first four questions were taken from the summary. The
amount of detail contained in the summary that would be subsequently required to
answer the test questions three months later is unbelievably skewed. The similarities
between the summary’s content and organization and that of his and [the other accused
student’s] answers on C530 appear implausible to have been coincidental.” The board
of officers concluded that the applicant either fabricated the summary after the fact to
bolster his assertions before the show cause board and other tribunals, or he was aided
in the preparation of his notes in November 1994 by an unauthorized source [the
previously compromised C530 exam]. They recommended that their concerns over
this summary be transmitted to CGSC and to PERSCOM for inclusion in any
subsequent actions pertaining to the applicant.
In the processing of this case, advisory opinions (COPIES ATTACHED) were obtained
from the Officer Special Review Board (OSRB) and the Department of the Army
Suitability Evaluation Board (DASEB). The OSRB reviewed the AER and noted that
the applicant had not previously appealed the document. However, the AER was
reviewed and determined to be a fair evaluation of the applicant’s performance during
the period in question. The OSRB further noted that the applicant had numerous
opportunities to refute the allegations which led to the contested AER. The DASEB
reviewed the current application before this Board and found no justification for
removing the CG’s letter of reprimand.
The CGSC Student Handbook defines plagiarism as “. . . presenting someone else’s
ideas, words, data, or work as one’s own. PLAGIARISM IN ANY FORM IS STRICTLY
PROHIBITED! Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to:
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(a) presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing
(b) presenting another’s writing or idea as one’s own.
(c) copying words from a source without identifying those words with quotation
marks and/or endnotes.”
DISCUSSION: Considering all the evidence, allegations, and information presented by
the applicant, together with the evidence of record, applicable law and regulations, and
advisory opinion(s), it is concluded:
1. The applicant and a second student submitted C530 exams that were so similar as
to be nearly identical. This similarity led the CGSC to charge the students with
plagiarism and to convene a Misconduct Board. The exams were presented to the
Misconduct Board as prima facie evidence that the two students had committed
plagiarism. When asked, they could not explain the similarities by any other means
2. This Board believes that the CGSC erred in charging both students with plagiarism.
Given the fact of two nearly identical exams, the CGSC should have charged the
students with cheating by not doing individual work. This Board further believes that
the Misconduct Board correctly found both students guilty of cheating, but should not
have defined that cheating in terms of plagiarism, at least in the case of the applicant,
who was the first to complete the exam. It is apparent that the Misconduct Board
attempted to correct this error by stating that it could not be determined who copied
from whom (or what), but it was equally apparent that the exams did not represent
individual effort and/or original thought.
3. The CG, US Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, after receiving
the Misconduct Board’s report and a proposed letter of reprimand written by the Acting
Deputy Commandant, met with the applicant and also reviewed written rebuttal
submitted by him. Concerned that the applicant had failed to understand the true
nature of the problem, the CG chose to personally issue the letter of reprimand,
correcting the Misconduct Board and the Acting Deputy Commandant by making it
perfectly clear that he was reprimanding the applicant for cheating by collaborating, not
4. The Show Cause Board found the CGSC Misconduct Board’s finding that the
applicant committed plagiarism to be unsupportable. The board recommended,
therefore, that the applicant be retained on active duty. However, based upon a “highly
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suspect” piece of evidence submitted by him during his Show Cause hearing, the board
questioned the applicant’s integrity by accusing him of either fabricating the evidence or
of having received, and used, a copy of the compromised C530 exam months before
completing it in January 1995.
5. Notwithstanding the results of the Show Cause Board, this Board believes that the
applicant and his fellow student collaborated to complete their C530 exams and that
both individuals are, therefore, guilty of cheating; the applicant’s dismissal from CGSC
and his AER [which merely states that the applicant was the subject of a misconduct
board] remain valid; and that the GOLOR remains especially appropriate. The flagging
action of 5 February 1996 was lifted on 5 May 1997 upon completion of the Show
6. In view of the foregoing, there is no basis for granting the applicant's request.
DETERMINATION: The applicant has failed to submit sufficient relevant evidence to
demonstrate the existence of probable error or injustice.
ABCMR Memorandum of
GRANT FORMAL HEARING
Karl F. Schneider